Internal communications is vital to the smooth functioning of an organization. However, effective communication is especially important when there are significant changes happening in your workplace. Let’s look at the connection between internal communications and change in an organization.
The Challenges of Change
Changes in areas such as company values, management, branding, and other areas have a profound effect on everyone who works for an organization. While every change is implemented with the idea of producing positive results, people often feel threatened by any significant departures from the norm. Here are some of the concerns that employees often have during periods of transition:
- Job security. Employees may fear for their jobs if changes include layoffs of hiring of new staff.
- Changing and expanding responsibilities. When a company changes direction, it might mean new and different responsibilities. Consider whether employees will need to update their skills and training or not.
- Shifting relationships. As changes occur, employees might find themselves in new positions, new departments, and dealing with different people (e.g. supervisors, managers, clients, liaisons in different departments, etc.). This can create disruptions in the routine, since it takes time to get comfortable with new working relationships.
- Rumors and gossip. While rumors are fairly common in organizations, they tend to circulate more freely during times of change as people speculate on future events and the implications of each new development.
These issues can create a certain amount of anxiety and confusion in an organization while changes are going on. The only real antidote to this challenge is effective internal communications.
Communication Helps Remove the Greatest Fear
It’s often noted that people have a built-in fear of change. This may even be hardwired into our genetics to keep us alert as any change in our environment could signal danger. However, there’s evidence that the true fundamental human fear is fear of the unknown. When changes are happening, no one knows exactly where they will lead.
That’s why it’s not recommended to stay silent or cryptic during times of transition. When people are feeling uncertain, they tend to assume the worst. When you communicate, you clarify the situation and help make the new situation familiar.
Internal Communication Tips
Poor or insufficient internal communications can cause a wide variety of problems during periods of change. Here are some guidelines for effective communications strategies to help you make a smooth transition.
Send Relevant, Customized Messages
Internal communications are essential for building trust. However, sending the same messages to everyone can cause more confusion than clarity. It’s better to send relevant and targeted messages based on employees’ needs and responsibilities. For example, if most of the changes are happening in the IT department, giving detailed information to people in Marketing might not be the best idea. Always consider who is receiving the message and whether it’s actually relevant to him or her.
Meet With Employees One-on-One
In addition to group meetings and emails, it’s important to conduct face-to-face meetings with individual employees. While mass communications are effective for getting across general information, there’s no substitute for sit-downs where you can provide details on how changes will impact him or her specifically, and answer any questions. If you want one-on-one meetings to build trust, keep the focus on your employees. Convey any essential information but make sure you take the time to listen to their concerns.
Share Your Vision
When organizations change, it’s for a reason. You have certain objectives and a vision for the future. Keep in mind that it can be hard for employees to see the big picture. As we mentioned, it’s good to provide personalized information that’s relevant to individuals.
At the same time, you should give everyone a glimpse of the bigger picture, and the thoughts and feelings behind the decisions made. Don’t just explain what’s happening, but why. While this won’t necessarily alleviate all anxiety about the transition, it can put matters into perspective and help make sure everyone understand the reasoning behind the shifts.
If you want to get everyone on board with the changes, you have to take active steps to engage people. If employees see changes as strictly a series of top-down messages, you can’t expect too much enthusiasm. In fact, this type of approach tends to create resentment and anxiety, not to mention the spreading of rumors. Do everything you can to engage employees and show them how the changes are in their best interests.
- Find ways to involve each department and individual. You don’t want people to feel like change is something that’s happening to them. The more you engage employees, the more they’ll feel like they’re an integral part of what’s going on. Don’t leave anyone out. Giving even small responsibilities to everyone will help them feel included in the process.
- Encourage feedback. In addition to encouraging feedback at meetings, give employees anonymous ways to communicate. Anonymous surveys, with space for comments (in addition to yes/no or multiple-choice questions) are useful for gauging people’s true feelings.
- Invite employees to contribute their own suggestions on how to implement changes. Publish the best ideas in company newsletters.
- Form teams or committees to address specific areas of change. For example, if you’re doing a major overhaul of a key software used by the organization or department, set up a team to help everyone make the transition.
Focus on the Positive
Creating a positive and supportive atmosphere goes a long way in lifting fears and getting people to embrace change. The traditional approach to change management was hierarchical and even authoritarian. The message was often, “This is how it’s going to be whether you like it or not!” Today, however, organizations understand the value of focusing on the positive. Don’t forget to praise and reward employees who help with the transition. Celebrate every success. Remind everyone of the desirable outcomes that you are all are working for.
Internal Communications are Crucial During Change
The quality of your internal communications will have a lot to do with your results when you introduce changes in your organization. For the transition to happen as smoothly as possible, you need all teams, departments, and individuals working together. This requires a strategy that includes clear and consistent communications. If you want to create positive changes, it helps to have the right tools.